A common question people ask when looking to add a new piece of equipment to their home gym is, “Which one is the best?” That’s certainly no different when it comes to treadmills, but the “best” option typically varies from person to person due to the different varieties of treadmills on the market. Some buyers view the best option as the one with the most high-tech features, some consider the best to be one that provides the most cushioning, and others simply want the best value possible.
We’ve been through this process ourselves, and we’re here to help you learn what to look for in a treadmill to land the best option to suit your needs. Whether you’re an avid hiker looking for a treadmill with a high incline setting, a runner wanting a way to work in some sprints at home, or an apartment dweller needing a more compact option, we aim to make this difficult decision much more manageable for you. Before we dive into all that, though, let’s start with the steps you’ll need to take before you actually start shopping for a treadmill.
Step One: Map Out Your Space
Figuring out where you want to set your treadmill up in your home is typically the most crucial step in this process. We suggest busting out a trusty measuring tape and figuring out exactly how much space you have to work with in your home gym. The last thing you want is to feel cramped on space when you’re working out, so you should also ask yourself if you want/need a treadmill that can fold when you’re finished with your cardio. This can be huge for apartment dwellers, or those who want to snag their dumbbells or kettlebells to sculpt their muscles between cardio sessions.
The length and width of treadmill belts tend to vary as well. If you’re just looking for a treadmill to get your steps in, then a 50-inch belt should serve you well enough. However, if you’re wanting to run, you’ll probably want to target a belt that is at least 55 inches long, so you can hit your natural stride. If you’re six feet or taller, you’ll probably need to accommodate even more for your stride length by snagging a tread with a 60-inch belt. The width of the belt may be a deal-breaker for some treadmill buyers too. If you have a bigger frame, you’ll probably want to go after a 22-inch belt width, while those who are smaller may find 18 to 20 inches to serve them just fine. After you’ve figured out exactly how much space you need on your tread and how much room you have to house it, it’s time to move on to step two.
Step Two: Figure Out Your Budget
After you know how much space you have to work with, it’s time to think about the money. It is worth remembering that just because a treadmill is expensive doesn’t mean it’s the best option. During this process, you must align your budget with the features you prioritize in a treadmill. If you don’t care for fancy features, like a touchscreen monitor and virtual training options, you should save your hard-earned cash by going after a more “basic” model that still allows you to get a solid run in at home.
That being said, we wouldn’t necessarily recommend spending under $1,000 on a treadmill since you’ll likely run into durability issues at an accelerated rate. Most companies also allow you to finance your purchase, so you don’t need to pay all that money upfront. Here’s the bottom line: Figure out how much you can comfortably spend on your treadmill and find an option that’s built to last and matches your fitness needs as closely as possible.
Step Three: Decide What Features Are Essential To You
Once you’ve figured out where to place your treadmill and are comfortable with your budget, it’s time to think about exactly what you’re looking for. If you enjoy going on hikes, you’ll probably want to target a treadmill with a high incline setting to mimic those afternoons spent outdoors.
Those who want to limit the amount of impact their joints endure will want to find a treadmill that provides great (or even adjustable) cushioning, and if you’re a runner, you’ll probably want to find one with both a strong motor and high speed settings. Foldable treads come in clutch for those who don’t have a lot of space to work with, and anyone who dreads their cardio days might find streaming their workouts to be the only thing that gets them through their session.
Having multiple speed, incline, and decline settings can be a game changer for some people, but why are automatic adjustments helpful? This is a feature you’ll certainly have to pay for, but it could make all the difference in the world for those who become complacent with their cardio. For example, NordicTrack has implemented this feature on their treadmills if you’re streaming trainer-led classes from iFit. As you go through your workout, your tread will adjust the difficulty during your trainer’s cues to push you to your limits. If you find yourself not trying hard enough and need extra motivation, a high-end product that offers these automatic adjustments may be a great fit.
You might be interested in a treadmill with pre-programmed workouts. Many treadmills feature a handful of workouts loaded onto the machine upon purchase, but this varies. A couple of the most common ones you’ll find are interval training and heart rate programs.
Step Four: What Style Cardio Workout Are You Looking For?
Everyone isn’t looking for the same style of cardio workout. Some expensive tread models will feature a sled push option that requires you to use your leg strength to move the belt. While this may be great for athletes wanting to build strength in their posterior chain, those who just want to burn some extra calories by walking daily may find that to be an unnecessary expense. If you can relate to that, you’ll probably be better off finding yourself a treadmill with solid incline settings, so you can still increase your intensity if you feel up to it without needing the high-tech sled-push feature.
Once you’ve landed on your ideal cardio workout style, you’ll be able to find a treadmill with a motor that best suits your goals. Anyone who wants a hardcore workout will undoubtedly want their treadmill to feature a strong motor that can keep up, while those who just want to go for a brisk walk might be fine with a less powerful motor. We’ll discuss this in further detail later, but just as a point of reference, runners will want to target a 3.0 or higher CHP (continuous horsepower) motor to meet their needs. And walkers should be just fine with a lower 2.0 CHP motor.
Step Five: Bite The Bullet And Land On Your Treadmill
After you’ve figured out what traits you’re looking for, it’s time to weigh your options and land on the best treadmill for you. Before spending your money, we suggest testing some models out firsthand. However, if you aren’t able to test the specific treadmill you’re considering, reading reviews online is also extremely beneficial. Our team has tested and reviewed a lot of treadmills that may make things a bit easier for you, as well. We realize this is a difficult decision, but if you follow the steps listed above, we’re confident you’ll find the best fit for your goals.
What To Look For In A Treadmill
There are a lot of factors to consider when looking for a solid treadmill. Since not everyone is looking for the same style cardio workout, it’s essential to focus on what matters most to you specifically and base your decision on those needs.
Size & Foldability
Nobody wants to spend a bunch of money on a treadmill just to find out that it simply can’t fit in their personal space — therefore, finding the right sized treadmill is paramount to your decision-making process. If you’re tight on space, you’ll likely need a model that can fold. The good news is that most treadmills on the market today can fold without affecting their stability. Many even have a hydraulic lift system that makes folding a one-hand process. This feature can allow you to make the most out of the space in your home gym.
Working within your available budget is a crucial aspect of every purchase, not just when it comes to treadmills. Find out how much you can comfortably spend on your equipment and try your best to stay within that limit. If you’re stuck on a treadmill, but it’s a little pricey, companies will typically allow you to finance your purchase, so you don’t have to spend all your hard-earned money in one lump.
Once you know what style of cardio workouts you’re interested in, you need to pay attention to motor strength. Runners will want a strong motor (3.0 CHP or higher), while walkers will likely be just fine with a 2.0 CHP motor. Unless, of course, you want a self-powered treadmill, which in the words of Ludacris, only moves as you move.
Build & Quality
To avoid wasting your money, we recommend finding yourself a treadmill with a belt that’s built to last. There are three factors that determine whether or not the belt is of high quality — the thickness, the rollers, and the lubrication. A high-quality belt typically features at least a two-ply belt, 2.5-inch rollers, and silicone lubricant. Belts that are single-ply tend to be less durable and louder when in use, rollers with a diameter under 2.5 inches will lead to more stress on the motor, and a treadmill that isn’t properly lubricated won’t perform as smoothly.
We realize that not everyone is looking for a treadmill with streaming options, but virtual classes sure do make those long-distance runs go by faster. The thing is, you typically have to sign up for a membership to gain access to the cardio classes offered on the monitors of these high-tech treadmills.
We think you’ll likely benefit from having a trainer lead you through your workouts — especially if you’re lacking in motivation — but membership fees may be a turnoff for some.
What To Avoid When Buying A Treadmill
Similar to how you need to find a treadmill that suits your specific needs, you also need to avoid certain aspects when searching for a solid tread. These include but are not limited to overspending, buying a treadmill with a weak motor, and needing faster speed settings.
Even though streaming a cardio workout can be a game changer for some, not everyone finds that feature useful. While we all want nice things, spending thousands of dollars on one piece of equipment isn’t in every customer’s budget. So if you don’t think you’ll benefit from virtual training, you may be able to cut your costs in half with a more basic option.
The same goes for added incline and decline settings. Oftentimes, treadmills that have a wide range of incline and decline options will feature a higher price tag, but if you aren’t going to use those extra settings, then you shouldn’t shell out the extra cash. The bottom line is to stay within your budget and avoid spending a lot of money on a product with features you won’t use.
The motor on a treadmill might not matter to those looking to get a brisk walk in, but it can make all the difference in the world for endurance runners. If you’re into running long distances, you need to target a treadmill with a 3.0 CHP motor or higher. Anything under that will not be able to accommodate your training. And self-powered treadmills don’t feature any type of motor, so you’ll be using your own strength to move the belt.
Low Top Speed
Similar to the motor power, the speed settings of a treadmill might play a small role for someone looking to get their daily steps in, but runners need to pay attention to this. If you want to crank out a mile in under five minutes, you need a treadmill that can at least reach a top speed of 12 miles per hour. In addition, if you’re interested in interval training you’ll likely need a tread that can hit speeds above 10mph. While most treads do reach 10mph, there are some basic walking treadmills out there that are only built to accommodate joggers that run up to 6mph.
One of the reasons people tend to run on a treadmill instead of on concrete is because treadmills are more forgiving on our joints. However, not every treadmill reduces impact in the same manner. Often you’ll find a treadmill to reduce the impact anywhere between 15 to 45 percent, but lower-end treadmills may offer less.
Some offer adjustable cushioning, and others have a three-zone cushion system. This three-zone system is unique as it provides more cushioning where your foot strikes the belt and is more firm in the back where you’re pushing off. Since we highly doubt that you want to injure yourself when running on a treadmill, we recommend finding ample cushion if you’re an avid runner. The problem is that not every company provides this information, so your best bet may be to read customer reviews, and avoid the ones that have a lot of negative comments on cushioning.
Treadmill warranties typically cover the motor, frame, parts, and labor. Most treadmills feature a lifetime warranty on the frame and motor, but a cheaper model may only have a two-year warranty. The warranty covering the parts of a treadmill likely has the most variety from brand to brand. The most reliable treads on the market tend to have a warranty of at least five years on its parts, but since the cost of labor to fix a treadmill tends to be pretty pricey, most companies are only going to cover this for a year.
While we want to believe that you won’t need anything repaired within a few short years, targeting a treadmill with a two-year labor warranty may be a nice safety blanket. And if a treadmill offers anything less than what we have just listed, we would be leery.
Our Favorite Treadmill
While your ideal treadmill is going to be determined by your own goals, our top choice checks most of the boxes you may be looking for. It has a durable frame, features automatic speed and incline adjustments, boasts a 14-inch touchscreen monitor, and offers a hydraulic lift system to help with folding.
NordicTrack Commercial 1750
The NordicTrack Commercial 1750 is an ideal choice for runners as it offers 15 percent incline, -3 percent decline, and up to 12mph in speed. Your purchase will come with a free month of iFit (which will cost $39 per month afterwards), which will provide access to over 16,000 different workouts ranging from strength training to stretching, and even yoga on top of the treadmill options. The 14-inch monitor not only tilts to your comfort level, but it also rotates 360 degrees, so you can take full advantage of all of the different types of workout classes.
The trainer-led workouts will feature automatic adjustments during your workout, but you can always override those settings with the manual adjustment buttons. This treadmill will run you around $2,500 at base cost, and NordicTrack does a pretty good job of laying out your financing options when checking out if you’d rather pay for this treadmill over time. But we think the durability, functionality, and high-tech features make the 1750 well-worth its higher-end price tag.
The NordicTrack Commercial 1750 is made for the tech-loving runner. This high-tech treadmill features a touchscreen monitor that can tilt and rotate, and offers automatic incline, decline, and speed adjustments based on the workout you choose.
Who Should Buy The NordicTrack Commercial 1750
- Athletes who want a solid incline and decline range will enjoy the -3 percent decline to 15 percent incline here.
- Folks who dread their cardio workouts will likely find the trainer-led classes via iFit to help pass the time.
- Anyone who wants to mimic running outdoors will find the automatic incline/speed adjustments during virtual classes an excellent tool for their training.
Who Shouldn’t Buy The NordicTrack Commercial 1750
- Anyone who doesn’t care for fancy features may be better off finding a more basic option.
- Those who are on a tight budget may want to source cheaper options.
- Even though this treadmill can fold, it may still be too big for those who are very tight on space.
If you’re looking for a jack-of-all-trades treadmill that can simply do it all, it’s going to be tough to top the NordicTrack Commercial 1750. It’s durable and loaded with high-tech features to keep you zoned in on your workouts for years to come. Sure it’s a little pricey compared to treadmills with fewer features, but we think it’s worth the money for what it offers.
Read our full review of the NordicTrack Commercial 1750 Treadmill.
Let’s be honest, buying a new treadmill can be overwhelming. Not only are there so many different models to choose from, but the features vary widely as well. While some users may be fine with a treadmill that tops out at 10 miles per hour, others will need a higher top speed to accommodate their workouts. The strength of the motor may also be a deal breaker for some since it determines the overall top speed.
Whether you’re looking for a treadmill with a high incline setting or one with a bunch of high-tech features, there’s an option out there for everyone. As a rule of thumb, be sure to keep in mind the amount of space you need, the price you’re willing to pay, the features you find essential, and the style of cardio you’re interested in — the rest will come naturally.
How much does a treadmill typically cost?
On average, the cost of a solid treadmill is about $1,000 to $1,500. Now that’s not to say you can’t find a suitable option for less than that, but odds are you’ll be in the market for a new one at a faster rate than you would if you spent a little more. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you will also find many higher-end treads for closer to $3,000 — some even going for well over that cost.
What’s the average size of a treadmill?
Even though there are some small treadmills that are designed to fit underneath a desk, the majority are at least 6.5 feet long and about three feet (or so) wide. Now, if you purchase a foldable treadmill, you’ll see that footprint almost cut in half when the machine is not in use.
How long does a treadmill typically last?
The average lifespan of a treadmill is about 10 years. But if you take proper care of it (like lubricating the belt when necessary) you might be able to get more usage out of it.